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Recognition of Adam Lallana’s Cruyff turns has progressed to the point where sarcastic jokes concerning his most familiar trait are no longer greeted with the kind of appreciation they previously demanded.
Reds supporters know what he is all about and what he can do, which has made his failure to consistently have an impact in the past all the more frustrating.
Following a tough time settling in at Anfield, Lallana seems to have uncovered where he is most effective in this Liverpool side and fans are becoming more accustomed to what he does and what he can offer their team.
The 28-year- old is at an age and a point in his career where this season has to be a big one if he is to be a success at Liverpool.
His performances towards the end of last season certainly warrant him a place in the first eleven but it is now up to him to thrive under a manager who suits his personal approach and in a squad capable of a top four finish.
49 chances created across the 2015/2016 Premier League campaign compared to his tally of 32 in 2014/2015 marks improvement on Lallana’s part.
Though the statistics fail to amaze, they represent just how much more involved he has been. He is finally orchestrating the more significant attacking moves to add to his already acknowledged work rate and is providing the kind of assists that adds greater value to his place in the trio of attacking midfielders.
The demand for excellence from Lallana created by greater competition for places makes this season a pivotal one for the former Southampton man.
2016/2017 beholds a season where he must begin to dominate with his rare technical ability as an English midfielder and reverse the doubts that still loom over him.
Lallana under Klopp…
Adam Lallana’s style of play makes it impossible to liken him to any other member of the squad.
His unique approach is also perhaps why someone as unorthodox as Jurgen Klopp appears to appreciate his talents so much.
Liverpool’s number 20 has been a main implementer of Klopp’s high intensity football and has in turn caught the eye of many during his time under the German.
The way he leads the high pressing of the opposition and the aggression in his defensive work represents signs of him becoming a leader in a side severely short of such characters.
Aside from his offensive efforts, this natural desire to retrieve the ball differs from that of his fellow attacking talents who must fabricate a hunger to turn over possession in quick time.
The midfielder thereby enters the new season with a proven advantage in that respect. Build on this role as a leader and a moral influence and Lallana gives himself a great chance of being a reliable option in the eyes of a manager who will be desperate to stamp his mark on authority in his first full Premier League season.
Taking the energy he possesses and growing on this will also set him in good stead when it comes to featuring and making things happen in what promises to be a highly competitive and draining year.
Both his intelligence and experience opens the door for him to be utilised as someone to help new signings and youngsters learn and ease their way into Klopp’s plans.
This season was always going to be about whether Lallana could continue to develop, though. It is about whether he can become as equally important as Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino when it comes to Liverpool’s percentages and figures in the final third.
His role this season will come down to whether or not he can provide the assists and goals from the very off that can outweigh the attributes that new boys Sadio Mane and Georginio Wijnaldum have to offer.
Where will he play?
The expectation heading into the new season is that Adam Lallana will occupy one of the three attacking midfield positions behind a lone striker in Klopp’s preferred 4-2-3-1 formation.
The England star looks a likely starter for Sunday’s opening day fixture at Arsenal given the uncertainty surrounding player fitness.
Firmino and Coutinho’s tendency to interchange forward positions works in unison with Lallana’s wish to drift into different pockets of space. He should never be restricted to a wider position if the set up works as it should do.
It’s important for Lallana this season to own the space he runs into and get himself on the ball as much as possible when in this 4-2-3-1.
His role this season depends on him stepping up and taking responsibility both on and off of the ball.
Pushing the two Brazilians into the shadows at times is key in order to give his manager and side a balanced attack that can hurt teams from each area of the pitch.
Sadio Mane’s pace and runs beyond the opposition not only bolsters Liverpool’s attacking options but also promises to make the most of the challenges Lallana wins in high areas on the pitch and the way he can transform these into passes forward.
This, too, will benefit Lallana’s ability to keep possession and receive the ball in tight areas in a way that draws markers in and leaves room in behind for the pace of Mane and even the likes of Divock Origi and Daniel Sturridge to run into.
He has it in him to support his teammates in the central midfield battles as well as creating chances for his strikers and making more opportunities for the technicians around him to get on the ball.
Help all over the pitch.
If Klopp deploys a 4-3-3, he could play on either flank or as part of the middle trio – one side of Emre Can – too.
His role this season…
Fans need to see him dictate the game on a more regular basis and not only win the ball in high areas as he so often does but take advantage of this by creating more chances and playing with more conviction in front of goal.
It is time for him to mix it up and try something new, whether that means making more unusual runs beyond the backline, coming deeper to initiate attacks or even posing as a more central figure for those around him to play off of.
He is such a clever player that many are left unsatisfied with just how much more he could do. More goals from the off will immediately gain him attention and give Klopp a reason to keep him involved.
If things go to plan, Lallana will find himself playing in both league and cup games given his fitness levels.
The way the Premier League has evolved, however, means his technique and touch will occasionally be overlooked for the solidity a trio of central midfielders could offer or the more direct approach a front two can provide.
Avoiding disappearing in games and stepping up so the opposition take notice of his presence is vital if Lallana is to have a big season.
He has to make a difference as a starter and an impact substitution. If he can continue to play with the level of ferocity and intent he showed under Klopp last season then Liverpool fans have reason to be excited.